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By Koroi Hawkins, RNZ Pacific editor in Honiara

Polls have opened today in Solomon Islands.

“Today is polling day. Polling Station opens at 7 am and closes at 4 pm. Be at the correct polling station and be in the voting line before 4 pm,” a text message from the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission alerting voters said this morning.

But even before the first ballot was cast a political party president and election candidate told RNZ Pacific on the eve of the election that coalition negotiations were already taking place and the first political lobbying camp is being set up at the Honiara Hotel.

The polls which opened at 7am will close at 4pm and more than 400,000 Solomon Islanders are expected to exercise their democratic right and vote to elect their national and provincial representatives.

According to the Electoral Commission, there are 334 election candidates in the running for the 50 available seats in the national election and only 20 of them are women.

There are 219 candidates contesting under parties and 115 as independents.

In the provincial assembly elections, there are 816 candidates contesting – 781 are men and 35 are women.

Out of this lot, 724 are contesting as independents and 92 under political party banners.

Independents outnumber party lists
In both the national and provincial elections — which are being conducted simultaneously for the first time this year — independent candidates far outnumber the candidates fielded by any single political party.

Historically, independent candidates have always played a big part in the formation of coalition governments in Solomon Islands as king makers.

In fact, at the last election in 2019, the caretaker prime minister Manasseh Sogavare actually contested the election as an independent candidate, who formally registered his Our Party after the polls, and then proceeded to sign up most of the independent MPs to create what was the largest party in the last house.

The party president who told RNZ Pacific that coalition negotiations were already well underway said that the same strategy, or a variation of it, may again be employed in this election.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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